As birds head south, biodiversity is on display


Biodiversity (the variety of life on the planet) is reflected across all levels of organization – from whole ecosystems, to individual species, to microscopic gene sequences. As summer slowly turns to fall, we're treated with a parade of biodiversity at the species level as migratory birds (over 300 species and between 3 and 5 billion individuals) begin their flights from summer breeding territory in the Boreal to their southern wintering grounds. Even over the ruckus of city traffic, a noisy flock of Canada geese, or sandhill cranes will remind you, ''Look up!''.

 A strong body of research links biodiversity to the full and healthy functioning of ecosystems, upon which people, communities and economies depend. Ecosystems provide wood, paper, food, oxygen and clean water; regulation of climate, disease and flooding; crop pollination, nutrient cycling and the sequestration and storage of atmospheric carbon.

All life forms play a role in the environment – From massive polar bears to tiny soil bacteria. Somewhere between those two is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Although its arrival and departuree is not announced with the same cacophony as the geese, its annual presence is no less remarkable.  A breeding resident in much of the southern Boreal, this winged wonder weighs about as much as a nickel at the start of its spring migration from Mexico and Central America. 

Beating its wings 53 times per second, it is fuelled largely by flower nectar, making it an important pollinator for preferred species including spotted jewelweed.
The current rate of species extinction is higher than at any point in human history. Protecting the Boreal habitats that both migrant and resident species rely on must be the foundational step to ensure species survival.

Photo Courtesy of Desirée Rolfe appears in the 2017 CPAWS Boreal Wilderness Calendar which is generously supported by Investors Group, Churchill Wild and Mountain Equipment Co-op.